Damian Carrington Environment editor
Tuesday 24 October 2017 18.00 BST
The BBC has apologised for an interview with the climate sceptic Lord Lawson after admitting it had breached its own editorial guidelines for allowing him to claim that global temperatures have not risen in the past decade.
BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today ran the item in August in which Lawson, interviewed by presenter Justin Webb, made the claim. The last three years have in fact seen successive global heat records broken.
The Today programme rejected initial complaints from listeners, arguing that Lawson’s stance was “reflected by the current US administration” and that offering space to “dissenting voices” was an important aspect of impartiality.
However, some listeners escalated their complaint and, in a letter seen by the Guardian, the BBC’s executive complaints unit now accepts the interview breached its guidelines on accuracy and impartiality.
The complaint centred on two statements by Lawson: that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “has confirmed that there has been no increase in extreme weather events” and “according to the official figures, during this past 10 years, if anything, mean global temperature, average world temperature, has slightly declined”.
The BBC complaints unit accepted that these statements “were, at the least, contestable and should have been challenged”. In fact the Global Warming Policy Forum itself, the campaign group chaired by Lawson, acknowledged on 13 August that the temperature data he was referring to was “erroneous” and not official. Senior scientists also declared that Lawson’s statement about extreme weather was wrong.
It is not the first time the Today programme has been censured by the BBC complaints unit for an interview with Lawson. A broadcast in February 2014 was judged to have “given undue weight to Lord Lawson’s views, and had conveyed a misleading impression of the scientific evidence on the matter”.